by Sean McEwen – Youth & Integration Coordinator
The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about many challenges for us. We have had to change how we socialise, receive an education, the way we work, how we shop, and the list can go on forever to the changes and sacrifices we have all made. The one thing that has not changed, is the incredible spirit, perseverance and determination of young people to be connected to something bigger than themselves and to be positive changemakers in their communities.
For the past few years, my work has been focused on the Localise Volunteering For All Award programme – a programme that recognises the voluntary efforts of young people inside and outside of their school/community groups, and that their school/community group is one that celebrates diversity.
From September 2017 – March 2020, the Volunteering For All Award programme worked with 5,110 young people in 109 workshops from Dublin to Galway, Letterkenny to Cork.
As an immigrant to Ireland myself, it provided me an opportunity to connect to my new home, to become a proud Irish resident and connect to my Irish roots (albeit from over 150 years ago). My entire adult life has been focused on supporting young people and their communities – through my work, education, and my own volunteerism so I guess you can say that I landed my dream job with Localise!
Through those 109 workshops, I have been incredibly fortunate to hear the stories of so many people and learn about the commonalities that bind us together and make us equal. At Localise, we know that no matter one’s background, circumstance, where they come from; just down the road or from another country, their ethnicity, culture, or even who they love – each of us can make a positive difference in our local area. I’ve listened to young people about the difficulties of being a young person in Ireland but I have also been fortunate enough to hear about, or celebrate accomplishments and milestones of many. I have learned and experienced the essence of what ‘community’ means in Ireland. I’ve heard about the insurmountable volunteer work that young people do to support their communities, but they themselves never think of it as volunteerism. I’ve had teachers and youth workers approach me after workshops and say they had no idea that this person did this, or that person did that.
To me, this is why the Volunteering For All Award is so special. The workshop allows for a platform where young people can use their voice and share their stories. Their stories of who they are and how and where they connect within the local and wider community and their experiences within it. It affirms their previous volunteer work and celebrates the school/community group as one that celebrates diversity.
It is time for us to celebrate our young people, and celebrate the diversity in our communities.